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ActionSA manifesto — party tones down populist stance on migrants and vows to slash Cabinet

ActionSA manifesto — party tones down populist stance on migrants and vows to slash Cabinet
ActionSA President Herman Mashaba during the opening ceremony of its first policy conference held at Birchwood Conference Centre in Boksburg on 12 September 2023. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

ActionSA promises to slash the Cabinet, provide a universal basic income and says it is anti-xenophobia in its election manifesto launch. Can it live up to the promises after all the rabble-rousing?

Herman Mashaba’s ActionSA is challenging the ANC for black voters. That much was clear from its manifesto launch on Saturday. The new party filled the 5,000-seater Ellis Park Arena in Johannesburg with a support base that fishes in ANC waters: black working and middle-class people largely (but not only) based in cities.

In its manifesto, the party promises to reduce the Cabinet to 20 and ditch deputy ministers.

action sa manifesto crowd

Part of the 5,000 crowd that attended the ActionSA national manifesto launch at Ellis Park Arena in Johannesburg on 23 March 2024.( Photo: Gallo Images / Fani Mahuntsi)

President Cyril Ramaphosa had the same ambitions when he took office, but patronage and cadre deployment policies have bloated the Cabinet. Ramaphosa has a Cabinet of 32 and an unprecedented 38 deputy ministers, most of whom are not well known and have unclear reporting lines and mandates. 

Mashaba, the founder of the hair product company Black Like Me, also wants to ditch BEE in its present incarnation. Instead, he plans to plough the resultant R56-billion in saved compliance costs into an Opportunity Fund for disadvantaged black students and entrepreneurs. ActionSA defines black as black, coloured, Indian and Asian South African people. 

The party would capitalise the Opportunity Fund with a 5% corporate tax increase and says its calculations show companies can recoup the tax by saving on BEE compliance costs.  

The party supports a universal basic income. If it came to power, it says, all qualifying South Africans would be paid a monthly social solidarity income of R790 (Year 1), R1,101 (Year 2), and R1,622 (Year 3), and would grow with the inflation rate thereafter. The numbers are tied to low, medium, and high food poverty data lines. Several party manifestos pledge support for a universal basic income to fight poverty, but ActionSA is the only one that puts a number to it. 

The party’s modellers have calculated that paying this income would increase GDP growth by two percentage points a year.

actionsa manifesto

The applause was loudest for the clauses which spoke about limiting illegal migration. (Photo: Gallo Images / Fani Mahuntsi)

ActionSA’s manifesto has substantially moderated the party’s populist and rabble-rousing stance on migrants. Mashaba has often skirted the margins of xenophobia with rhetoric, but the manifesto speaks a different language.

“I don’t want to live in a country where foreign nationals come and open hairdressing salons and spaza shops. No,” he told Daily Maverick’s Bheki C. Simelane in 2021.

The manifesto condemns xenophobia and proclaims the party’s intention to make it easier to get into South Africa legally and more challenging to do so illegally. “We want the people of the world to come to South Africa, but they must do so by following our laws,” the manifesto says. 

ActionSA says it supports a better and easier critical skills visa regime for certain employees, including social workers, teachers and healthcare workers. It touts border security and puts South Africans first as totemic parts of its manifesto.

At the launch on Saturday, the applause was loudest for the clauses which spoke about limiting illegal migration, especially when a voice recording between speeches made statements against Pakistani and Somali-owned shops.

actionsa manifesto launch

The ActionSA national manifesto launch at Ellis Park Arena in Johannesburg on 23 March 2024. ( Photo: Gallo Images / Fani Mahuntsi)

Mashaba and ActionSA will have to resist the language of demagoguery on the rest of the campaign trail to live true to the manifesto’s new language on migration for the party. The change of heart has been prompted by the maths showing that South Africa’s economy is doomed without foreign direct investment and tourists visiting. 

ActionSA was established in 2020 after Mashaba quit the DA in a race row in 2019. He served as Johannesburg mayor after joining the party before a local government election. 

ActionSA did well for a start-up in the 2021 local polls and has since been building branches in all provinces. It will contest the 29 May poll in all nine provinces and is one of the lead partners in the nine-party Multi-Party Coalition. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • M E says:

    And just like that ActionSA lost my vote by excluding disadvantaged white people. Sad that political parties still use race as a paint brush,assuming all white people have money. What happened to the Rainbow Nation idea? The moment you exclude any race, you are racist.

  • Bob Dubery says:

    Wrong stance on basic income. There should be NO qualifying. Everybody gets it, then you take it back from those in employment by means of tax. The grant is then cheaper to administer and there’s less scope for bent officials doing folks a favour.

  • Bob Dubery says:

    They’re Xenophobic all right. They just put a mask on so that people don’t confuse them with the thuggish PA, but follow them on social media and watch the mask slip every now and then. I recall Trollip telling a man born in Zimbabwe, but a tax-paying naturalised citizen to “go back where you come from.” Mashaba has a long record on this (and on spreading exaggered figures) and it can’t simply be magicked away. We saw for a while in Johannesburg how they made sure that only “South Africans” (however they define this, like most nationalists they are not clear on this) could renew or apply for trading permits. There was Mashaba’s infamous (and short on truth) “World Cup of crime” presentation when he was Mayor. They are the real deal.

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